VCAT – a most puzzling decision – there’s something very rotten in the State of Victoria

VCAT has upheld Iluka’s appeal against the Horsham City Council. Our interpretation of the decision is that it effectively means that a Planning Permit from a local council is the only thing required for any mining company to continue to dump radioactive waste material in Victoria (from material mined in another state). This also means that the mining company is under no obligation to return the source material to the original site and excuses the mining company from rehabilitating mined areas. The Health Dept does not need to approve the Permit and may or may not help the LGA manage the dump and the EPA has no interest in it. Read the decision carefully. Every Victorian should be very concerned about the implications of this decision.

An farcical nature of the decision is that rather than being based on the law as it stands  it seemed to be heavily influenced by Iluka’s claim that employment at their Hamilton processing plant would be threatened if they were forced to return materials to site (in SA).  Ironically almost as soon as the time for appeal had lapsed Iluka closed their Horsham plant.  Unfortunately the case had already cost Horsham CC and other respondents hundreds of thousands in legal costs and mining companies have very deep pockets. 

This situation would have been avoided 

  1. IF the Victorian regulators followed ARPANZA guidelines rather than applying an Act that was never intended to cover mining
  2. AND they had done their jobs properly in the first place 
  3. OR they had taken responsibility for their stuff up instead of palming it off onto Council
  4. AND Iluka had been required to return the waste material to its source.

The case can be found at https://www.vcat.vic.gov.au/resources/iluka-resources-limited-v-horsham-rural-cc-2017-vcat-107

or download it here  p1368-2016-iluka-resources-limited-v-horsham-rural-cc-270117

We will add commentary to this lengthy decision as time permits. A significant  concern is the VCAT claim that there were no objections to the 2009 Work Plan variation. The reality is, people did object, but there is no formal process to object to a Work Plan variation – it is far too easy for a mining company (aided by the bureaucrats) to sneak a variation through. This has been the case at Birregurra – where ERR and the quarry proponent appeared to collude to deceive the public about the original intent of the project.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/birregurra-quarry-row-regulator-coaches-miner-in-how-to-avoid-council-and-vcat-judgment-20151002-gk07ky.html

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